The American Medical Association, along with a group of other healthcare trade associations, wrote a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), encouraging him to push for the repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) to allow for the formation of more accurate Medicare spending estimates while also suggesting that excess baseline projections for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) be used to help offset necessary Medicare baseline changes.
“Using the OCO baseline as an offset for the accumulated SGR bad debt amounts to ‘cleaning the books;’ by eliminating one flawed budget gimmick with another and allowing for a more accurate accounting of future government expenditures without increasing the federal deficit,” the letter read. “It also provides an opportunity to immediately repeal the SGR and establish a pathway toward a truly sustainable physician payment system that focuses on improving quality and value for our nation’s Medicare beneficiaries.”
The letter noted that, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), cuts of more than $290 billion to physician services provided to Medicare beneficiaries are scheduled to occur under current law. It stated that despite suggestions that the cuts are unlikely to occur, CBO is required to “mask the size of the real deficit and debt with these imaginary and unreasonable future savings.” Additionally, the cost of repealing the SGR rises with time, the letter warned.
“We agree that our nation faces significant fiscal challenges, and that Medicare is not immune,” the letter concluded. “However, it is impossible to implement common sense programmatic reforms while an immediate and constant threat of massive cuts hangs over the program. Accordingly, we urge you to utilize the opportunity provided to this conference committee to eliminate the SGR permanently."
Co-signers of the Jan. 23 letter included the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Neurology, the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Society, 47 state medical associations and others.
Read the letter in its entirety here.